Asking Questions Is Not Enough: The Dangers Of Informal Client Interviews and Surveys

You work at a company that is in regular contact with its clients. Maybe you even solicit feedback through an account manager frequently, but in an unstructured way.

Because there’s no systematic effort to collect the data, you can’t analyze it or extract trends. But it doesn’t matter because the feedback is usually positive.

Then, disaster strikes: In one week, several long time customers who never signaled any dissatisfaction, walk out the door..

What the heck happened?

Even the best companies can have disconnects between corporate strategy and the delivery of products and services to their customers. These companies also understand that, to identify these gaps, they must regularly talk to their customers and ask questions.

Still, just touching base and asking ad hoc questions isn’t enough. You need to have a formalized process – a consistent set of questions and, more importantly, interviewers free of biases – to get readily analyzed data for making predictions about your customers.

Where Informal Client Research Falls Down

Informal client research often falls short, leaving critical gaps in the company’s understanding of the client mindset.

These stem from a few major issues:

  1. Lack of consistency. This occurs when there is no systematic effort to gather and consolidate data beyond anecdotes.
  2. Lack of rigor. Customer research needs to cover a host of operational and strategic areas to give a complete picture of the client relationship.
  3. Lack of analysis. The data needs to be analyzed and tracked over time.
  4. Lack of Objectivity. This occurs when the account manager, or another employee in charge of collecting the data, don’t really hear feedback that conflicts with their own perceptions and opinions.

These factors can lead to the amplification of data that supports the firm’s own biases. At the same time, they minimize findings that contradict their preconceptions… even if the data collectors make a real effort to remain subjective. 

As a result, internal research efforts often overlook problems that make customers change to a new vendor.

Voice Of The Customer

Voice of the Customer research (VOC) provides a critical link between corporate strategy – vision, targets, solutions roadmap, and more — and the customer’s perception of the company and its offerings.

Many companies do this type of research on their own. Still, results are often inconsistent or distorted by bias.

As a company specializing in VOC research, Topline Strategy has developed a proprietary methodology that analyzes strategy/delivery fit across a host of measures.

The Topline Strategy VOC approaches this fit in two main areas–strategic and operational:


  • Competitive Dynamics: The reasons behind wins and losses, and insight into competitive differences that drive the decision to switch.
  • Product Roadmap Testing: This is testing new product concepts and getting feedback on the product roadmap to ensure alignment with client needs and best allocate development resources.
  • Customer Strategic Direction: This provides a more profound understanding of customer priorities, short-term and long-term.
  • Customer Segmentation: Identifying customer segments and understanding all the prior bullet points in that context.


  • Net Promoter Score: Understanding how the Net Promoter Score (NPS) changes over time and the impact of steps taken to increase the firm’s NPS.
  • Functional Performance. Understanding performance and reliability metrics over time and identifying opportunities to improve.
  • Product Feedback: Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the product or offering and top needs, along with feedback on recent releases.
  • Upsell/Cross-sell Intent: Digging into the plans to increase client usage and gaining an understanding of opportunities for, and barriers to, upsells and cross-sells.

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Topline Strategy has a highly sophisticated, impartial, and cost-effective methodology for Voice of the Customer research, which can include online customer surveys and telephone interviews.

Those robust data sets are then analyzed using highly trained consultants to develop deep insights into customer expectations about features, services, and costs.

The Topline Strategy VOC research delivers detailed and consistent results to assess how well a company provides an experience that reflects its vision, values, and objectives–now and over time. The feedback, in turn, helps the company refine its strategic goals to ensure that they are aligned with each other and with customer experience.

What you don’t know about your customers can hurt you – even if they seem to be telling you everything you want to hear.

Click here to learn more about how Topline Strategy’s Voice of the Customer program can quickly help you understand what’s going on in your customers’ heads, free of cognitive biases.